THE DIRT ON HAVANA: New business life coming to popular corridor

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AURORA |  With some loud crashes and a few clouds of dust, demolition crews brought some signs of progress to a particularly-busy Aurora intersection this month.

The Village on the Park shopping center, which sits on the north side of Parker Road and South Havana Street, said goodbye to the building near Parker that used to house Dora’s Mexican restaurant.

The razing clears the space for three, new yet-to-be announced retail businesses and is part of a broader redevelopment of the 13-acre parcel that sees more than 100,000 vehicles zoom past everyday. Chance Horiuchi, executive director in training for the Havana Business Improvement District, said the area is an important one for the improvement district just because it sees so much traffic everyday.

“Its one of the main throughways for the metro Denver region,” she said.

Still, despite traffic counts other shopping centers long for, much of the shopping center has been empty for years, particularly the stretch that faces Havana.

That red brick building was once home to Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants, a bridal shop and a credit union. In recent years though it’s been vacant save for the occasional temporary Halloween shop in the fall.

According to city documents, developers with Kimco Realty have been planning for years to redevelop the east side of the project and the current vacancies there are part of that plan. Horiuchi said the plan is for demolition of that east side to start later this fall.

That’s a big development, she said, because the traffic counts mean the shopping center is a crucial piece near the southern end of the BID.

According to the City of Aurora’s traffic counts, Havana and Parker both see upward of 50,000 vehicles each day near the center.

Already, the west side of the project has seen significant redevelopment in recent years beyond the razing of Dora’s. Kimco razed an old Le Peep location on the west side of the Village on the Park development replacing it with a new building housing a sandwich shop and bank. And much of the north side of the center has been redeveloped, with new facades on the Shoe Carnival and TJ Maxx stores as successes in their 2015 annual report, and said continued redevelopment there is key. At the a city planning commission meeting where the commission approved the plans for the old Le Peep site, a commissioner wondered why the developers were investing so heavily on the west side of the development when so much on the east side remains largely vacant.

Horiuchi said the existing buildings have also been luring new business, with a new juice shop opening near the intersection of Havana and East Iliff Avenue on the north side of the project just this spring.

The neighborhood as a whole has seen significant redevelopment in recent years.

To the north, at Iliff and Parker, crews recently finished work on a $16-million redevelopment to turn the almost 7-acre plot into a hub of shopping and dining.

That corner had largely sat empty in recent years after longtime Aurora nightspot Caledonia’s closed up shop.  Today, the site is home to several businesses, including an Arby’s, Einstein’s bagels, and Murphy Oil gas station. The site also is home to a Bubba’s 33 restaurant, a chain restaurant owned by Texas Roadhouse and the chain’s first a metro Denver location,

Horiuchi said the hope is that projects like the one across the street, even though it’s outside the BID’s boundaries, help spur continued growth in the area.